The disheartening end of America’s longest war raises a number of questions about U.S. national security policy in Central Asia and the future of the newly established Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Perhaps the biggest unknown amid the power vacuum and confusion of the US withdrawal is really the Taliban’s relationship with al-Qaeda, 20 years after housing the terrorist group that planned and coordinated the terrorist attack. of September 11 against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. .
The Doha 2020 deal, negotiated by Afghan Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad under former President Trump, laid the groundwork for the withdrawal of all US forces in exchange for a Taliban pledge to prevent any terrorist organization from using Afghan soil to threaten or attack the United States. States or its allies.
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Taliban spokespersons assured they would not allow any terrorist group to launch an attack from Afghan territory, but it is still unclear whether there is an incentive structure in place to prevent the Taliban from preventing al-Qaeda or any other group to use Afghan soil as a terrorist. training camp.
“It is not clear that the Taliban, who seeks international recognition and legitimacy, will want to tolerate or encourage direct attacks against the United States by Al Qaeda or other extremist groups based in Afghanistan.” , Kimberly Kagan, Founder and President of the Institute. for the study of war, Fox News said.
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Kagan, who served in Kabul from 2010 to 2012 working for the commanders of the International Security Assistance Force, stressed that the global jihadist movement will likely continue to emanate from Afghanistan.
“This does not mean that Al Qaeda and other groups will not support the global jihadist cause from Afghanistan,” she said. “Even though the Taliban can or want to prevent al Qaeda from planning or launching attacks from Afghanistan, Al Qaeda continues to be the leader of the global jihadist movement and will disperse its capabilities from Afghanistan to its global affiliates.”
Many policymakers and experts wonder if the Taliban will ever officially sever their long-standing ties with al-Qaeda. According to a United Nations monitoring report released in June, “the Taliban and al-Qaeda remain closely aligned and show no indication of severing ties.”
The report also cites that the Taliban’s ties to al-Qaeda have “grown stronger because of the personal ties of marriage and the shared partnership in the struggle, now cemented by second-generation ties.”
While the UN report notes that al-Qaeda has maintained minimal and secret contact with the Taliban so that they do not interfere with the Taliban’s negotiating position with the United States, it also makes it clear that the Taliban leaders have consulted with al-Qaeda leaders during nearly two years of negotiations with the United States – and promised them to honor the historic relationship between militant Islamist groups.
Al-Qaeda swore loyalty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar in the 1990s in exchange for refuge in Afghanistan, and Mullah Omar refused to hand Osama bin Laden over to US authorities after September 11.
The 2020 Doha deal did not provide for any enforcement or oversight mechanism to compel the Taliban to honor their cowardly commitments to prevent future terrorist attacks, and trust in the fundamentalist group is virtually non-existent. It is also unclear to what extent the Taliban has reformed or moderated since their previous oppressive and medieval rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
When the Taliban first came to power in 1996 following a military victory over rival Mujahedin groups in the post-Soviet civil war, the Taliban declared Afghanistan an Islamic emirate. Once in power, the Taliban applied a strict interpretation of Sharia law. Women were forced to wear the burqas and banned from school or work, Western-style television and music were banned, and public executions took place at a football stadium.
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“Whatever the Taliban say in words, we can see in their actions that the Taliban have retained the same ideology – violence, brutality, oppression – which was its hallmark in the 1990s – and that has not changed. “said Kagan.
Taliban spokespersons have made public statements pledging to respect the rights of women and ethnic and religious minorities, but there is little evidence that the Taliban have fundamentally changed their rigid, extremist interpretation of Islam.
In his address to the nation on Monday afternoon, President Biden argued that the United States had two clear objectives in Afghanistan in 2001: to attack those responsible for the terrorist attacks and to ensure that Afghanistan was not not used as a playground to launch another attack on the USA
“We have done it. We have severely degraded al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” Biden said. “We never gave up on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and we did. That was over ten years ago.”
The President went on to say that the mission in Afghanistan all those years ago was never to build a nation or create a unified, centralized democratic state. The central US objective of disrupting Al Qaeda terrorist training camps and preventing another 9/11-style attack on the United States has been largely achieved, according to the Biden administration.
Kagan, like many others, however, fear that Afghanistan will become what she calls the “second school of jihadism” along with Syria, where Al-Qaeda affiliates send their fighters.
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Back in Washington, the broader national implications of the United States’ exit from Afghanistan and the heartbreaking and desperate scenes at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport remain unclear.
“The cold truth is that Americans care far more about protecting themselves from terrorism than about the humanitarian nightmare unfolding in Afghanistan,” Max Abrahms, terrorism expert and political science professor at Northeastern University, told Fox News.
“This means that Americans can tolerate the Taliban even in Kabul as long as they don’t help al-Qaeda in terrorist acts outside the region. I don’t see the United States going back to Afghanistan unless there is another massive attack on the homeland. understands this hierarchy of interests in US foreign policy, ”Abrahms added.
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At this point, there is no signal on how the Taliban plan to rule Afghanistan. What is clear is that Salafi jihadist groups around the world, many of whom have already made public statements praising the Taliban, are reinvigorated by the Taliban’s military victory and will use their success as a model to continue their own struggles in the Taliban. world jihadist movement.
“Nothing shows the value of the presence of US forces like the absence of US forces as we saw last month,” Kagan warned.
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